The NFL had a 16 percent increase in concussions from 2016 to 2017, with 291 concussions in 2017, compared to 250 in 2016.
“Certainly, we’re disappointed that the concussion numbers are up,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “It is something which challenges us now to roll up our sleeves and work hard to see that number go down.”
Dr. Sills, speaking at a head, neck and spine conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis early this week, says this is a “call to action.”
“It’s not OK to simply stand behind that and say, ‘Well, the numbers are going up because we’re doing a better job.’ I think to me this is really a call to action to see what we can do to drive it down,” Sills said.
Training camp practice scrimmages have been pinpointed as a problem with a 73 percent rise in concussions from 2016 to 17. Why is this part of practice particularly problematic? Perhaps because you have long shots trying to make the team who think big hits get the coach’s attention.
“I get that there are 80 guys flying around trying to make the [roster], but I think we also owe to ourselves and to our players to take an aggressive education program to those coaches and assistant coaches,” said NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer. “Not only the head coaches but also the position coaches. I think we have to get down to that level for them to understand precisely how these concussions occur.”
Mayer and his staff recently distributed a concussion guide for players, a 107-page reference book with material on concussion detection and treatment.
While the NFL has made great strides with concussion prevention (better helmets) and treatment (independent neurologists evaluating players), they realize there’s still a lot of work to do.
“We take this is as a challenge, because we’re not going to be satisfied until we drive that number much lower,” Sills said.